USAID on the Horn of Africa famine

USAID on the Horn of Africa famine image 1
A mother gives her child water out of her hand as they arrive at a reception center in Ifo camp in Dadaab.

In a blog post marking the first year anniversary of 2011's declaration of famine in Somalia, USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy Nancy Lindborg reminds readers of three very important points.

1. Famine is not a word to throw around lightly.

Famine is a very specific technical term to describe only those most severe food crises that reach three clear sets of conditions. In famine, more than 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished; at least 20 percent of the population consumes fewer than 2,100 calories of food a day; and the mortality rate exceeds two deaths or four child deaths per 10,000 people on a daily basis.

2. Famine is not a natural disaster.

So as the worst drought in 60 years gripped the Horn of Africa last year, it was only in Somalia, racked by 20 years of conflict and instability, and with limited access for humanitarian action, that famine was declared.

3. Aid to the region saved lives, even in very difficult to reach parts of Somalia.

Our disaster experts from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace used market prices and nutritional data to chart a strategy that focused on highly targeted cash and vouchers, attention to market dynamics. We also kept a focus on health programs, knowing that the leading cause of death for children in famines is preventable disease. USAID worked around the clock in the region and in Washington to ensure strategies, supplies and partners were in place, including creative approaches to address the limited humanitarian access in many parts of Somalia.

Although the situation has improved since its nadir last year, the Horn of Africa is still struggling with food security. In the past year CARE reached 2.8 million people in the region with critical humanitarian assistance.

To learn more about our work in the Horn of Africa and how you can help, visit our Horn of Africa page.